Friday, 5/15/15

  1. Semen est sanguis Christianorum
  2. Complicit, in a heteronormative sort of way
  3. Kinda sorta missing the point
  4. Indiana RFRA post mortem
  5. An artistic triumph

1

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, and lesser degrees of persecution seem historically to fertilize it.

Some worthy followup comments on the Pew Survey of U.S. religious affiliation appear at Rod Dreher’s blog, familiarity with which comments this item assumes.

I agree with Rod that Ed Stetzer and Russell Moore are on the right track: the survey reveals a winnowing out of people whose “Christianity” was nominal and cultural, and it is unsurprising that they change to “none” in the blink of an eye when a Christian identification becomes a net negative.

Unlike Rod, I come from a background very much aligned with Stetzer’s magazine (Christianity Today) and quite comfortable with Russell Moore’s Southern Baptist Convention (this was they kind of Church my parents sought out when we went on family vacations when I was a child).

When I opined that “I’ve just seen too much religion that really wasn’t worth holding onto,” I had this general sort of Evangelical Christianity in mind, not mainstream Protestantism, having had almost no personal experience of the mainstream. Yes, there were nominal Evangelicals aplenty, as this was The Right Kind of Christian to be in some of the places I lived – or so it seemed to me.

I withhold comment on Roman Catholicism, having respect for the real thing but no real experience.

As for Rod’s remarks, and Gabe Martini’s, on Orthodoxy, I agree that the “ethnic club at prayer” culture will be a huge problem where it exists, and that I’ve experienced something like that when traveling– or so it seemed to me again. The children of ethnic parishes are assimilating into the American mainstream and intermarrying, so ethnic Christian Orthodoxy has all the long-term problems of American Reform and Conservative Judaism.

C.S. Lewis wrote about how “gentlemen” had devolved from a term denoting a man of a particular social class to a term of general approbation of any man. Through the United States for most of my lifetime, the same seems to have been true of “Christian.”

Now the tide of social opinion has turned from approbation to chariness or worse. And I don’t think it’s going to get better because the most vocal Christians likely will remain hostile to the deathly end-stage of the sexually-transmitted revolution.

Expect the apostasy to continue until morale improves.

2

Extended parentheticals are a sin of which I keep repenting. That’s the reason for this item, an explanation of one train of thought I had writing the preceding item.

I first wrote in its penultimate paragraph that “most vocal Christians likely will remain hostile to the sexual revolution.” But then I thought that wasn’t unequivocally true, and changed it to “most vocal Christians likely will remain hostile to most of the sexual revolution.” That still didn’t sound true when I thought about it. So what I ended up with was “hostile to the deathly end-stage of the sexually-transmitted revolution.”

What threatened to become an extended parenthetical, in other words, is this personal observation: many North American Christians are deeply complicit in the sexual revolution, but shocked, simply shocked, at its eventuality.

Complicit in the sexual revolution how?:

  • Condoning or overlooking fornication and co-habitation if it’s your own kid.
  • Condoning or overlooking fornication and co-habitation if it’s your own widowed parent and remaining unmarried is financially advantageous.
  • Contraception (with a few possible exceptions like IUDs or Ella)  for intentionally “child-free” “marriages.”
  • Sodomy between husband and wife (not just practiced, but celebrated).
  • Serial monogamy (because life without sex is just too hard).
  • Secret internet porn addiction including women-on-women.

I count myself as having been among the complicit, though I’ve repented that, too. (I’ll not tell in which ways I was complicit.)

For some vocal Christians, “it’s all good” if it’s sexy rather than yucky like a guy doing a guy. Because we must maintain our sexual standards, mustn’t we?

For Millenial Evangelicals, though, I guess it’s all good, period. Abigail Rine, assistant professor of english at George Fox University, musters evidence:

I realized, as I listened to the discussion, that the idea of “redefining” marriage was nonsensical to them, because they had never encountered the philosophy behind the conjugal view of marriage. To them, the Christian argument against same-sex marriage is an appeal to the authority of a few disparate Bible verses, and therefore compelling only to those with a literalist hermeneutic. What the article names as a “revisionist” idea of marriage—marriage as an emotional, romantic, sexual bond between two people—does not seem “new” to my students at all, because this is the view of marriage they were raised with, albeit with a scriptural, heterosexual gloss.

While I listened to my students lambast the article, it struck me that, on one level, they were right: marriage isn’t in danger of being redefined; the redefinition began decades ago, in the wake of the sexual revolution. Once the link between sexuality and procreation was severed in our cultural imagination, marriage morphed into an exclusive romantic bond that has only an arbitrary relationship to reproduction. It is this redefinition, arguably, that has given rise to the same-sex marriage movement, rather than the other way around, and as the broader culture has shifted on this issue, so have many young evangelicals.

As I consider my own upbringing and the various “sex talks” I encountered in evangelical church settings over the past twenty years, I realize that the view of marital sex presented there was primarily revisionist. While the ideal of raising a family is ever-present in evangelical culture, discussions about sex itself focused almost exclusively on purity, as well as the intense spiritual bond that sexual intimacy brings to a married couple. Pregnancy was mentioned only in passing and often in negative terms, paraded alongside sexually transmitted diseases as a possible punishment for those who succumb to temptation. But for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound!

There was little attempt to cultivate an attitude toward sexuality that celebrates its full telos …

The conjugal understanding of marriage, as articulated by Girgis et al, depends upon a view of sex that, in my experience, is not predominant in evangelicalism. Take Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage as a recent, if extreme, example. With its celebration of anal sex and breast augmentation as marital sex aids, Real Marriage is emblematic of how deeply the ideals of the sexual revolution have permeated our culture, even to its evangelical corners.

My opinion is no doubt tinged with confirmation bias, but I think Prof. Rine has hit the nail on the head, and as a geezer with major Evangelical roots, I think her characterization “for those who wait, ah! Pleasures abound!” is spot on for 50+ years.

3

I used to think it was a shame that only we Reformed observed Ascension Day, and we had to pool three Reformed Churches to get a weak turnout. I’m no longer Reformed, but I note that Mrs. Tipsy, who is Reformed, didn’t go to Church Thursday.

I’ll be going next week, when the Orthodox observe Christ’s Ascension. And I now think that failure to observe it is a failure to apprehend the astonishing scope of the Gospel: “The Ascension of Christ shows the last stage in God’s plan for mankind: total union with Himself upon one’s departure from the world.”

4

­Today’s corporate ideology has a strong affinity with the lifestyles of those who are defined by mobility, ethical flexibility, liberalism (whether economic or social), a consumerist mentality in which choice is paramount, and a “progressive” outlook in which rapid change and “creative destruction” are the only certainties. The response to Indiana’s RFRA law shows very clearly that corporations have joined forces with Republicans on economic matters and Democrats on social ones. Corporate America is aligned with the ascendant ­libertarian portion of each party, ensuring a win for the political, economic, and ­social preferences of libertarianism.

The threat to demolish Indiana’s economy is only a more explicit expression of a project that corporations like Apple and Walmart have been carrying out with the ­assistance mainly of Republicans (as well as free-trade Democrats) for a generation.

We saw fully unmasked just who runs America, and the kind of America that they are bringing more fully into reality every passing day. It will be an America where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the ­national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant. No limits reflected in political, social, or religious norms can be permitted: All are allowed except those who would claim the legitimacy of restraint.

Patrick Deneen in the June First Things. Do read it all. And consider the virtues of “To hell with both parties!”

5

Finally, something I can (and do) cheer unequivocally.

Don’t take my word for it. They wouldn’t praise it in the New York Times if it wasn’t pretty darned good, would they?

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.